Many people are asking themselves, “What antiracism actions can I take to help?” First, it’s important to realize that the U.S. social system is not broken. What we see in police killings of people of color reflects the expansive and intricate system of dehumanization that colonial-era settlers constructed to support white supremacy, dispossession of indigenous people, and slavery. Like every genocide in recorded history, racism started with dehumanization.
The system is more complex now and supported by policy. However, we, white folks, are the conduit for the system that was built to serve us. When we do nothing it surges through us. To end racism, we have to break the system. We have to see it and fight against it. We need to be anti-racist. There are many ways to break and rebuild.
The most important anti-racism work we can do is hear the teachings and follow people with the lived experience of racial oppression, not white people. This includes professors, writers, activists, bosses, and mentors. See, share, and honor the lived experiences of people of color whose realities are/were clearly different than white people.
Corinne Shatuck published in Medium a list of 75 actions white people can take now to improve racial justice for people of color. Here are the top 20 excerpted and adapted from Shatuck’s extensive article.
- Google whether your local police department currently outfits all on-duty police officers with a body-worn camera and requires that the body-worn camera be turned on immediately when officers respond to a police call. If they don’t, write to your city or town government representative and police chief to advocate for it. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter. This needs to be standard everywhere. Multiply your voice by soliciting others to advocate as well, writing on social media about it, writing op-eds, etc.
- Google whether your city or town currently employs evidence-based police de-escalation trainings. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter. This needs to be standard everywhere. Write to your city or town government representative and police chief and advocate for it. Multiply your voice by soliciting others to advocate as well, writing on social media about it, writing op-eds, etc.
- More and more stories of black folks encountering racism are being documented and shared through social media—whether it’s at a hotel, with the police, in a coffee shop, at a school, etc. When you see such a post, call the organization, company, or institution involved to tell them how upset you are. Then share the post along with the institution’s contact information, spreading the word about what happened and encouraging others to contact the institution as well. Whether the company initiated the event or failed to protect a POC during an onslaught by a third party, they need to hear from us.
- If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And/or purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppets, Black History Flashcards, etc for their classroom. Use these items year-round, not just in February. The racial make-up of students doesn’t matter—kids of every race need to know American history and be exposed to people from different races, religions, and countries. If the friend is interested, buy them for your pal’s classroom. Don’t be shy to ask Facebook friends that you haven’t actually talked to in ten years.
- If you or a friend or family member is an educator, watch or share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about his experience as a black student telling people he wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist. Tyson’s experience reminds me of a black friend whose high school teachers tried to dissuade her from taking AP classes, because, with the best of intentions, they thought the AP classes would be “too much” for her. Be an educator who supports and encourages, not one who dissuades. Talk to educators you know about being educators who support and encourage, not educators who dissuade.
- Work on ensuring that black educators are hired where black children are being taught. If you want to know more about why and how this makes a difference for black children, check out this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. There are some really good nuggets in there about how schools can support the achievement of black students—from ensuring black students aren’t closed out of gifted programs by using test results instead of white teachers’ recommendations to the influence that having a black teacher has on a black student’s education to the importance to fostering a school ethos wherein black students think, “This school is here for me.”
- Many companies have recruiting channels that are predominantly white. Work with your HR department to recruit Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans. Recruiting from HBCUs is a good start. Work to put descendants of enslaved Africans already hired under supportive managers.
- Donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, United Negro College Fund, Black Youth Project 100, Color of Change, The Sentencing Project, Families against Mandatory Minimums, A New Way of Life, and Dream Defenders. Join some of these list-serves and take action as their emails dictate.
- Support black businesses. Find them on WeBuyBlack, The Black Wallet, and Official Black Wall Street.
- Bank black. It doesn’t have to be all of your checking or savings. Opening up an account with some money is better than no account at all. You can use the link from #9 (type “banking” in the Category field) or this site to find a bank. At the very least, move some or all of your checking, savings, mortgage, etc out of Wells Fargo as a part of the divestment movement to protect Standing Rock.
- Don’t buy from companies that use prison labor. Find a good list here.
- Read up about mandatory minimum sentences and watch videos about this on Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM’s) website. FAMM’s website includes work being done at the federal level and state level. Call or write to your state legislators and governor about reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
- To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Lee (R-UT)) Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 2850) which reduces the length of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences by half, makes the Fair Sentencing Act’s crack sentencing reforms retroactive, and expands the “safety valve” exception to mandatory drug sentences.
- To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Rand (R-KY)) Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 399, H.R. 1097), which would allow judges to give sentences other than the mandatory minimum sentence for any federal crime.
- To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write your federal legislators in support of another great criminal justice reform bill, the Second Look Act, which would make reduced sentences for crack convictions from the previously passed Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, reduce mandatory minimums for people convicted more than three times for drug crimes from life without parole after the third offense to 25 years, reduce mandatory sentences for drug crimes from 15 to 10 years, limit the use of solitary confinement on juvenile prisoners, etc.
- Call or write to your state legislators and governor to support state-wide criminal justice reform including reducing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing sentences for non-violent drug crimes, passing “safety valve” law to allow judges to depart below a mandatory minimum sentence under certain conditions, passing alternatives to incarceration, etc. Study after study shows that racism fuels racial disparities in imprisonment, and most of the US prison population are at the state and local level.
- Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to decriminalize weed. No, not because black folks use weed more frequently than white folks. Because black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites.
- Call or write to state legislators to require racial impact statements be required for all criminal justice bills. Most states already require fiscal and environmental impact statements for certain legislation. Racial impact statements evaluate if a bill may create or exacerbate racial disparities should the bill become law. Check out the status of your state’s legislation surrounding these statements here.
- Find and join a local “white space” to learn more about and talk out the conscious and unconscious biases us white folks have. If there’s not a group in your area, start one.
- Join or start a Daughters of Abraham book club in your Church, mosque, or synagogue.